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Outworker Legislation hobbles family clothing businesses
Oct '11
Peak body for the Textile Clothing and Footwear (TCF) sector, the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA) met with Victorian clothing manufacturers to discuss issues arising from current Fair Work legislation that hobbles family businesses which make garments for the local market.

Speaking about their personal experiences, makers and outworkers presented views that the modern award for TCF is developed on fundamental principles that are flawed and patronizing (perhaps even discriminatory) to the very workers it claims to protect. They claim it assumes they have no capacity to run their own businesses and that they have now lost their flexibility to operate as independent contractors.

Under the current TCF Award outworkers and residential based businesses are treated the same and must be engaged for a minimum 20 hours per week in an employer employee relationship with full entitlements paid by the employer. This removes the opportunity to build equity in a small TCF manufacturing business. The provision is only imposed on the TCF sector which comprises a significant proportion of small businesses (86% of the total industry).

According to TFIA CEO, Jo Kellock, who chaired the meeting;
“The intent of the legislation was to protect the vulnerable which we fully support. However parts of it are poorly drafted and can be misinterpreted (or worse lead to a potential abuse of power). It fails to create incentives for work let alone improvements in productivity. In fact we now have the ridiculous situation where it is not feasible to start a small manufacturing business from home in this sector.This legislative framework threatens to seriously hinder the Australian industry's production and entrepreneurial capability, undermining its future growth potential?”

Kellock continued:
“It is little wonder Australian clothing manufacture has been declining rapidly. Unless adjustments are made, the viability of the TCF industry that has given financial freedom and flexibility to many workers over the years is now unduly vulnerable.”

At the meeting other issues were raised about the onerous compliance regime and the volume of paperwork required to prove adherence to the law. Some were being asked for personal details and right of entry into their homes. All agreed it is time to make their concerns known and to push for improvements that ensure equal rights offered to other Australian small business owners and preserve the competitive advantage of the local industry.

Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA) is the peak Australian TCF industry body. It is a member driven non profit association that was first established in the 1940s to provide an umbrella organisation with a focal point for a number of sector specific associations. Today the TFIA represents the whole TCF industry and provides effective and influential representation to Government on TCF issues such as industry, trade, environment, education and training.

Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA)

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